It seems like I think this every day. I don’t know how much of it is in my head vs. how much of it is a reality, but all of it feels real.
An interesting thing about parenting is that is even with centuries of procreation there still is no sure-fire methods to raise your kids and not run into a moment where you break them. Every parent wants to manage their kids in their special way. I am no exception, but the longer I am a father, I become more and more aware of all the ways I have been a disservice to my children. I don’t mention this as a pity-able statement, but instead as a matter of fact. Whether or not this disservice has a lasting impact on my kids is, of course, debatable, but as I said its hard to know what is in my head and what is a reality. I suppose this is why it’s every parent’s overwhelming desire to share what they believe they did well with their children around other parents. Others like to make sure you get a breakdown of what not to do.
One such anecdote was given to me from a person I admire deeply and oft go to for advice. Let’s call him, Murtaugh. (Why? because that name is fun and doesn’t exist in my life). One day, after discussing my son Murtaugh offered “Tell him he can do anything.” He added “When I was younger I wanted to go pre-med and perhaps be a doctor and my mother told me, you can’t do that, you couldn’t be a Doctor” and with a pang of regret Murtaugh went on to admit that he chose to believe her. Before I go any further, it’s important to know that Murtaugh is a brilliant person, and it’s my opinion with zero doubt that he would have been a stellar doctor. I should also mention that Murtaugh’s mom was a genuine delight. Like ANY parent she likely had a desire to spare Murtaugh from hardship, and I am sure this was her way of encouraging a path she believed would better suit him. This story illustrates what haunts me as a father and I can draw parallels in my childhood.
I imagine that I was a difficult child because, somehow, I was blessed with the gift of gab and from a very young age I could converse and benefit from inference and context. This evidently made me difficult. I don’t think I achieved what I was capable of academically or socially in my educational career. I chose to believe that I was, in fact, more a bullshitter than a person capable of processing information and drawing insight from it. I am not a genius or anything. I just know I could have done more.
Do I think my parents should not have called me a bullshitter? Actually, no. I hate the idea of being emotionally soft, and I am happy my parents tried to be direct and honest with me. For instance, I have a very open relationship with my mother, and I am confident that we could discuss any subject. I am sure my take on their comments was an unintended consequence. Therein lies the problem itself. How do you parent in such a way that you condition mentally strong individuals without seeding doubt and insecurity or worse put a chip on their shoulder? How do you raise confident individuals without accidentally creating overconfident a-holes that cannot deal with defeat? These challenges go hand in hand. Consider the number of discussions and potential you have for getting this wrong with your kids. Since I am not an egotistical maniac, I have arrived at one inevitable conclusion.
Try as I will, this is not likely a problem I will solve/get right for every situation. I have to face it, one day I will learn how I broke my kids.0